Disparate Coverage in NYT: Kevin Jennings vs. Catholic Priest

(HT: Catholic League.)

Consider the following two stories. Pay attention. There will be a quiz.

1. The Obama administration has appointed Kevin Jennings as a "czar" inside the Department of Education. In addition to being the founder of a group called the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Jennings once wrote a foreword to a book called Queering Elementary Education. In that foreword, he wrote, "We must address antigay bigotry … as soon as students start going to school." In addition, Jennings has admitted that, 21 years ago as a 24-year-old teacher at Concord Academy, he advised a gay student sophomore*, "I hope you knew to use a condom," after the student confided he went home with a guy he had met the night before in a Boston restroom. Jennings has since admitted, "I can see how I should have handled the situation differently." Other controversial episodes have been attributed to Jennings.

2. A Catholic priest of the Franciscan order has a consensual relationship with a woman decades ago. He fathers a child. Over the years, the Franciscans agree to pay tens of thousands of dollars in child support, half of the boy's college expenses, and thousands in other expenses. The boy gets cancer. Again, "The Franciscans agreed to pay 50 percent of any 'extraordinary' medical costs, until he [turns] 23. [The mother] said she was greatly relieved. She was involved in a messy divorce with her third husband …" The Franciscans also give the woman $1000 for a trip to New York City for a medical consultation for her son. But when the order balks at paying a three-week hotel bill, the woman decides to go public with her story, despite her promise of confidentiality.

Quiz time: To which story did the Times devote over over 2,400 words starting on page A1? To which story did the paper devote a measly 488 words on page A19?

It should go without saying that the Times devoted more prominent space to the story of the Catholic priest.

The agenda of the article seems to be tucked into this passage:

"Clergy members of many faiths have crossed the line with women and had children out of wedlock. But the problem is particularly fraught for the Catholic Church, as Catholics in many countries are increasingly questioning the celibacy requirement for priests."

The Times and staffer Laurie Goodstein are likely clueless as to the history behind priestly celibacy. Here's some helpful articles for them:

"How To Argue For Priestly Celibacy" by Jason Evert

"What is the History of Priestly Celibacy?" Catholic Answers

(* – Although Jennings has said publicly that the boy was 15 at the time of the story, the man claiming to be at the center of the story has come forward to some media outlets, provided his driver's license, and claimed that he was 16. Several media outlets (especially those defending Jennings) have asserted that the age of consent in Massachusetts at the time of the incident was 16. But Massachusetts law has two different statutes. Chapter 272: Section 4 appears to apply an age of consent of 18. Yet Chapter 265: Section 23A appears to apply an age of 16. I'll leave it up to actual Massachusetts legal experts to make sense of this.)